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HERBS FOR AUTUMN EQUINOX: PART V

MUSHROOMS: Some of the tastiest mushrooms of the year can be found in the fall. The first and most important rule when foraging mushrooms is to get to know a few species well, using a field guide. A quality guide should contain the following subheadings: description, edibility, season, habitat, range and look-alikes. Fall mushrooms have different flavors and textures.


Mushrooms to harvest in fall include: Chanterelle, Chicken, Hen of the Woods, Honey, Oyster, and Pear-Shaped or Puffball Mushrooms.


Mushroom Foraging Safety:

· If on-the-spot identification of a harvested mushroom is not possible, separate it from the rest of the harvest.

· Ask an expert or field guide to verify the edibility of the suspect fungi.

· Do not consume wild mushrooms raw. They are indigestible when uncooked.

· Soak and rinse the mushrooms thoroughly to remove any residue.

· If side effects follow the consumption of mushrooms, contact a doctor!

· If susceptible to poison ivy, oak, or sumac, pay attention to its presence!

· Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and a hat to discourage ticks.

· Don't walk through heavily wooded terrain after dark.


Chanterelle Mushrooms (Cantharellus cibarius): chanterelles cannot be cultivated. They can only be foraged, and that is why they are so expensive to purchase. Chanterelles form a symbiotic relationship with tree roots of hardwood trees. A shaded forest floor with beech, oak, maple, and evergreen trees is a perfect spot to find chanterelles.


Harvest chanterelles by cutting at the base of the stem rather than pulling them out of the ground. This minimizes damage to the colony and also reduces the amount of cleaning time. Leave some behind to enable them continue to spore out and further colonize the area. Only harvest larger, more mature chanterelles rather than very young ones. This helps ensure that they’ve had a chance to produce spores. Use a breathable basket to the mushrooms to spore out as you walk, helping to seed the forest with new chanterelle colonies. Only harvest what you’ll reasonably use immediately or have time to prep for long-term storage. Fresh chanterelles only last 48 hours, so dehydrate and store what can not be consumed in that time frame.


Chanterelle mushrooms are full of vitamins and nutrients, and are an amazing source of vitamin D, potassium, B vitamins, Zinc, and Copper that help keep the nervous system strong and healthy. Chanterelles contain fiber which may help burn excess fat from the body. They also have anti-inflammatory properties that are useful in treating arthritis and chronic illnesses.

Chanterelle Stuffing with Pine Nuts by Hank Shaw: Serves 4:

Ingredients: 1-pound chanterelle mushrooms, 4 tablespoons butter, 2 celery stalks, chopped, 1 medium onion, chopped, 2 teaspoons thyme, 4 garlic cloves, chopped, 1/2 cup pine nuts, 4 cups bread croutons, 2-3 cups vegetable stock, 1/2 cup parsley, and Salt.


Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F., and soak the croutons in 1 cup of stock.

Chop the chanterelles into medium-sized pieces, and leave the small ones whole.

Heat a large sauté pan over medium-high heat for a minute or two. Add the chanterelles and dry sauté them, shaking and stirring them constantly, until they give up their water.

When most of the mushrooms’ water has cooked away, add the butter, celery and onion and toss to combine. Cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until the onions are translucent. Sprinkle them liberally with salt.

Add the garlic, thyme and pine nuts and cook for another 2 minutes.

Pour the contents of the sauté pan into a large bowl and mix with the bread croutons and the parsley.

Fill a casserole with the dressing and add enough stock to make the mixture quite moist, about 1 cup.

Cover the casserole and bake 30 minutes. Take the cover off and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the top browns.

Chicken Mushrooms (Laetiporus sulphureus): can be found on the stumps, trunks and logs of deciduous and coniferous trees in blazing orange-red or orange-yellow colors. Pay careful attention here, as the chicken mushroom bears a close resemblance to many nonedible types. Be careful not to succumb to the addictive smell. It's tempting to eat them raw but don't. Uncooked, this variety causes indigestion.


Harvest by slicing off the mushrooms near the base. It’s best to harvest them when they are young and tender., and when their flesh is still moist and has a spongy but firm feel. They are absolutely delicious sautéed, fried, or simmered in stews. Older mushrooms are often passed up by foragers, but once dehydrated and ground, they yield a powder packed full of fantastic mushroom flavor that is excellent added to risotto and other dishes.


Chicken-of-the-woods has a long history in folk medicine. It contains a variety of phytochemicals that are used as an antioxidant, antibacterial, anticarcinogenic, a hormonal balancer, for dental healthcare, as an anti-inflammatory, and in the treatment of Diabetes.

Pickled Chicken of the Woods Mushrooms: Ingredients: 2 pounds clean chicken of the wood mushrooms, 6 cups of water, 3 teaspoons of salt, 4 cloves of crushed garlic, A few sprigs of fresh thyme, and 2 cups of white wine vinegar.


Directions: Mix the water, salt, crushed garlic, and thyme in a stockpot and bring to a simmer. Add the mushrooms and cook them through for about 10 minutes until they’ve released their juices. Mix in the white vinegar and transfer the mixture, liquid included, into pickle jars, leaving about half an inch of headspace at the top of each one. Use a pH tester to ensure that the pickle juice pH level is lower than 4.2. Use a water bath canner for the final phase of the process. This should take about 20 minutes.

Hen of the Woods (Grifola frondosa): also known as Maitake, hen of the woods appears in wet Septembers through mild and moist Novembers. It can be found from Canada to Louisiana, throughout the Midwest and in coastal woodlands, near oak trees and stumps. They often appear in the same location year after year. They blend well with fallen leaves, but their size gives them away. A single mushroom of this variety can reach 20 inches in diameter and weigh up to 50 pounds.


Harvest hen of the woods by cutting at the base of the mushroom. It is best to cut the mushroom while leaving the base rooted into the ground. Carry a long filet knife to allow for an easy harvest and help to ensure the spot will be a repeat grower in the following years. Bring a very large duffle bag as hen of the woods are large and take up a ton of space.


In addition to its delicious taste, hen of the woods is a powerful medicinal mushroom. The polysaccharide content is known to help the body fight cancer, diabetes, the symptoms of HIV/AIDS, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure.

Roasted Hen of the Woods Mushrooms: Ingredients: 1 pound of Hen of the woods cleaned and picked over, cut into 2-inch pieces, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons bacon drippings, melted, 3 sprigs of thyme, and

Salt and pepper to taste. For the Aioli: 1/2 cup mayo, juice and zest from one lemon, 2 cloves of garlic finely minced, and salt and pepper to taste.


Directions: Toss the mushrooms with the oil, bacon drippings, salt, pepper and thyme and then bake in a 325-degree oven for 50-60 minutes. The mushrooms should be slightly crisp on the edges and have a nice meaty bite to them. Blend the aioli ingredients together, and serve the mushrooms with the aioli. Enjoy!


Tips on Cleaning Wild Mushrooms: Set mushroom in a large bowl and pick off all the acorns, leaves, and twigs. Brush off dirt with an unused paintbrush. Using a sharp paring knife, cut off the dirtiest parts of the base, and move mushroom to a clean cutting board. Cut into smaller pieces, 1-3 inches wide depending on your purpose. Wipe off any remaining dirt on each piece with damp paper towels.

Honey mushrooms (Armillaria mellea): also called button mushrooms, honey mushrooms have a one to four-inch yellow-brown cap and stalk with a whitish ring directly under the cap. It's similar in shape and taste to many commercially raised mushrooms. They appear in hardwood forests August through November, and logged-out timbers are the best places to find these delectable fungi.


This choice edible mushroom MUST be located on a hardwood trees base or root system. If you find this mushroom a foot away from a tree in some leaves uncover it and see if perhaps there may be root systems beneath them. If there isn’t then DON’T harvest. Harvest medium size mushrooms by taking a sharp knife and cutting at the stem, carefully leaving the mycelium intact. If slugs or bugs are found on the specimen remove them and then transfer the mushrooms into a basket. Once harvested it is best to head back home and clean them up right away. If the bottom of the mushroom has a dark brown in the middle, cut it in half as it is probably a worm trail. Remove any worms, and take out any leaves or pine needles. Fill a bowl with cool water and then add enough salt to cover the bottom. Insert a few mushrooms at a time into the water, and let them sit a minute or two to see if any bugs come rushing out. Look the mushrooms over as you remove them from the water. Shake dry and transfer cut or whole to the dehydrator.


Honey Mushrooms keep the immune system working to its optimal level. Its polysaccharide content has powerful immune boosting qualities. It is an immunomodulator that regulates the immune system in response to external stimuli. Honey mushrooms enhance brain function and protect against neurodegenerative disorders by decreasing the build-up of the specific proteins in the brain that have been linked to Alzheimer’s and Dementia. They also improve neuron function and prevent brain cell damage.


Sautéed Honey Mushroom Caps and Stems: Ingredients: Long clusters of honey mushrooms and their attached stems, Kosher salt and pepper, Fat for sautéing like lard, grapeseed, or canola, and 1 tablespoon unsalted butter.


Directions: Trim the caps from the honey mushrooms and peel the stems. Heat a pan with oil until lightly smoking and add the mushroom caps, cook the caps for 3 minutes on high heat until lightly colored, then add the stems and sauté for another 3 minutes. Continue cooking the mushrooms until they are well colored and thoroughly cooked. When the mushrooms are golden and caramelized, add the butter, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the mushrooms to paper towels to drain excess oil, then serve immediately. Notes: Remember to always cook honeys thoroughly, make darn sure they're done. If they are not cooked through, they could give you an upset stomach.


Oyster Mushrooms (Pleurotus ostreatus): are widely dispersed throughout North American dry river and creek bottoms. Willow or other softwood trees are prime places to search for the oyster fungi. It is prolific in the fall, but under favorable conditions can appear year-round. They grow in mild winter weather, freeze before aging, and can be chopped free from dead wood and thawed.


The smaller the mushroom, the better the taste. Do not harvest specimens that are browning or becoming odd shapes, as aging mushrooms do not taste good. To harvest, take a sharp knife and cut the mushroom off of the tree, log or stump keeping the knife level or flush with the wood. Be sure NOT to cut into the wood at all and to leave the bark underneath the mushroom fully intact and untouched. Oysters will come back over and over again in the same spots, by doing this you will be able to enjoy mushrooms for years to come. Carry the mushrooms in a basket or large bandana. Take the harvest home and check the mushrooms over. If maggots or larva from flies are present, cut that part off. Beetles are no issue, so pick them off if possible. Then soak the mushrooms in VERY SALTY water for 15 minutes. Pat dry, and once you have cut all bugs out and soaked, cut the mushroom with the shape of the gills into four pieces to ensure that there are no bugs in the meat of the mushroom.


Oyster mushrooms have nutritional value thanks to their wide range of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, including Niacin, required for the body’s functions and metabolization, Vitamin D, and Iron, required for red blood cells. Oyster mushrooms have medicinal value as immune system support, regulating cholesterol levels, lowering blood pressure, building strong bones, and protecting the heart from cardiovascular disease.


Oyster Mushroom Tart: by Maja Lundell: Ingredients: For the crust: 1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, 1/2 cup cornmeal, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3 tablespoons butter, cubed, and 2 medium eggs. For the filling: 3 tablespoons olive oil, 3 shallots, thinly sliced, 2 cloves garlic, chopped, 4 cups oyster mushrooms, cleaned, stems removed and chopped, 2 sprigs rosemary, chopped, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, ground, 1/2 cup mascarpone cheese, 1/2 cup whole milk, 3 medium eggs, 1 cup grated gouda cheese, and 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese.


Directions: For the crust: In a food processor, blend the cornmeal along with the flour and salt. Add in the cubed butter. Keep blending until the butter is combined well with the flour mixture. Add in the eggs. Keep blending until the dough comes together. On a clean countertop, knead the dough. Then divide it into two. Roll each half onto a wax paper. Place the dough in a tart pan. Then keep the pan in a refrigerator for at least 20 minutes. Set the oven to 350 °F. Place the pan into the oven and bake the crust for 15 minutes. Wait until the crust is golden at the sides.

Keep the pan on the wire rack until you add in the filling. Lower the oven temperature to 320 °F. For the filling: Heat a skillet over medium heat. Pour in olive oil. When oil is warm, add in the thinly sliced shallots and cook until tender. Toss in the garlic cloves. Cook for another minute. Add in the cleaned oyster mushrooms and rosemary. Cook until the mushrooms release their juices. Sprinkle salt and pepper and stir. Turn off the stove. Set the mixture aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the mascarpone and milk together. Mix until smooth. Add in the cheese and eggs to the bowl. Stir until the ingredients are well combined. Pour the mushroom mixture into the bowl. Stir well. Make sure that the mushrooms are coated with the cheese mixture. Once the filling is ready, transfer it into the prepared crust. Bake for 40 minutes in the oven. Wait until the filling is golden and puffed. Cool the tart for 10 minutes.

Serve and enjoy!


Puffball Mushrooms (Lycoperdon perlatum): are one of the most recognizable of fall fungi. They grow from July through November in most North American softwood and hardwood forests, and grow in scattered-to-dense clusters on decaying logs and debris.


Puffballs are the only mushroom that look like white volleyballs in the midst of a natural setting. Only collect puffballs that are at least the size of a volleyball. Puffballs that are harvested from the wild should be pure white inside and out. If discolored in any way, do not harvest. The inside should resemble tofu. Once mature, the inside of the puff ball turns greenish and then eventually into a huge bag of green spores. To harvest, turn the puffball over and inspect where it attaches to the ground. Cut away the flesh with dirt attached, then inspect the mushroom for color. It should be absolutely, perfectly white. If tunneling is present, cut away the mushroom flesh to check for worms. Remove any tissue with holes in it, until the rest is still perfectly white and firm. Puffball contains phytochemicals that make it an excellent hemostatic that works on a variety of bleeding issues, such as oral bleeding, nose bleeding, and traumatic hemorrhage. A decoction of puffball eases a swollen sore throat, hoarse voice, and inhibits strep.


Sautéed Puffball with Lemon and Garlic: Ingredients: 3 tablespoons butter, 1 onion, 4 cloves garlic, minced, ½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste, 1-pound giant puffball, diced in 1-inch cubes, ¼ teaspoon pepper

grated zest and juice of half a lemon, and ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley.


Directions: Heat the butter in a large heavy-bottomed skillet or Dutch oven. Add the diced onion, garlic, and ½ teaspoon salt. Sauté for 5 minutes, until the onion is translucent, stirring occasionally. Add the diced puffballs and cook, stirring occasionally, until the puffballs have shrunk in size and are golden brown in spots, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the pepper and lemon zest. Cook for 1 more minute. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon over the puffballs and sprinkle with the parsley. Toss and add more salt to taste, if desired.




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